The year was 2007 and British-born Kate and Gerald McCann were on holiday in Portugal with their seven friends and their three children. They were enjoying some much-needed downtime and good old-fashioned family fun away from their stressful jobs as physicians.
But on the night of May 3, something happened that would continue to haunt the McCann’s for the next decade…and the rest of their lives. The mysterious disappearance of Madeleine McCann would grip the entire world.
Madeleine McCann was born in Leicestershire, England in 2003. Her parents, Katie and Gerald McCann, were thrilled to have given birth to their first child, their perfect little blonde-haired, blue-eyed princess. The couple’s’ twins, a boy and a girl, were born two years after Maddie, in 2005.
The McCanns were both doctors. Katie worked in obstetrics and gynecology, eventually landing a gig as a general practitioner, while Gerald turned his degree into a position as a research cardiologist. In the spring of 2007, the family decided to take a trip to Spain with their friends. It was a trip that would change their lives forever…
The holiday saw the McCanns staying for seven nights in Praia da Luz, a small, Portuguese city, that was famous for its high concentration of British holidaymakers. They went with their seven friends, many of whom brought their own children. The friends and their eight children, including the McCann’s three, all stayed in small, luxury apartments located in the resort town. The McCann’s stayed in 5A.
5A was a two-bedroom, ground-floor apartment. The McCanns slept in the back bedroom while their three children slept in the room next to the front door, which they always kept locked. While the couples were staying at the resort, they dined together. It was around the same time every night, about 8 o’clock in the same Tapas restaurant near the apartment complex. But on May 3rd, the final day of their vacation, something changed…
The Morning Of
At breakfast on the 3rd, Maddie asked her mother something very strange. She asked, “Why didn’t you come when…I cried last night?” The parents usually came to check on all the children in shifts while at dinner, so it seemed strange that someone had missed hearing Maddie cry the night before. Still, maybe it had just been a coincidence. That evening, the McCanns put their children to bed at about 7 pm, just as they had for the previous six nights.
The McCanns and their friends went to dine at the Ocean Club’s open-air tapas restaurant, about a 45-second walk from their apartments. They left a note for the staff in the message book stating that the table’s children were asleep in their apartments. Every half hour, one of the couples would leave the restaurant to check on the children. The McCann’s had left the patio doors closed, but not locked, so that they could more quickly come in to check on the children. At 9:05 pm, Gerald McCann went to check on his children…
When Madeleine’s father went to check on the apartment, he found all three of the children fast asleep. All was well, except for the fact that he could have sworn he left their bedroom door slightly ajar, and when he came in it was wide open. He pulled it closed and returned to the Tapas bar. This was the very last time he would ever see Madeleine.
Madeleine’s mother, Katie, had intended to check on the children again at 9:30 pm, but the McCann’s friend, Matthew Oldfield, offered to do it when he checked on his children. He noticed that the children’s bedroom door was wide open, but he heard no noise issuing from the apartment and simply glanced into the room to see if everything was ok. At first glance, everything seemed fine. Little did he know, Madeleine McCann, was already gone…
Search High and Low
By the time the McCann’s got back to their apartment it was too late. Madeleine was gone. Panic ensued, and the police were called in. Two officers were brought in around 11 o’clock and began searching the resort. By 2 am, more police officers, the Polícia Judiciária, were brought in, along with two patrol dogs and four additional search-and-rescue dogs at 8 am the next day. The searched everywhere, but could not find any sign of Maddie.
Jane Tanner, another of the McCann’s friends, told police that when she had left to check on her own daughter at around 9:15 pm, she had seen a man carrying a small child in his arms. She noticed only that the child was wearing pink, floral pajamas and had bare feet. Jane was able to describe the man, however. He was white and dark-haired, but had a southern European or even Mediterranean appearance, and was wearing beige trousers and a dark jacket. Jane wasn’t the only one who had seen him either…
Martin and Mary Smith, who were on holiday from Ireland, also noticed a strange man walking through the resort and carrying a pajama-clad, barefoot little girl with blonde hair and pale skin. The Smiths described the man as being in his mid-30’s with a slim build, who stood about 5-ft-9-in tall. They also added that he didn’t look comfortable carrying the child and seemed like he didn’t belong at the resort.
After a few days, representatives from Scotland Yard came to the resort to questioning the McCanns, the Smiths, and anyone else who might be involved with the case. It was they realized that the disappearance likely occurred around 9:20 in the evening, just as Gerald was walking back to the table. The kidnapper had very likely been hiding in apartment 5A when he had checked on the children and made his move soon after…
Meanwhile, the Portuguese police were beginning to suspect that Katie and Gerald McCann had a hand in their daughter’s disappearance. By the time June rolled around, the press had caught wind of these suspicions, and the tide had turned on the grieving family. It appeared that the press, despite the illegality of using police information during an open investigation, had gotten hold of the phone numbers of all of the McCann’s friends, and had begun collecting their own information for stories on the couple.
The theory that the Portuguese police had come up with to justify the McCann’s involvement was absurd. They said that Maddie’s parents had killed her by accident by giving her an overdose of a sedative to make her sleep. This in and of itself was ridiculous, simply because both of the girl’s parents were doctors, so if they had indeed tried to sedate her, they’d have known how to do it properly. The vile accusations continued….
The police also asserted that after Maddie had passed, her parents had hidden the body then faked her abduction. Then, weeks later, they’d hired someone to move the body to a separate location to be buried. Thankfully, the Portuguese police had no evidence tying the poor McCanns to the crime and let them return to the UK. The press, however, wasted no time in making up, even more, rumors about the McCanns being swingers who sedated their children to fool around with their friends.
Bring the Hounds
July came with still no sign of little Madeleine. The McCanns knew that from this point on, the police would be looking for a body. There was no way the kidnapper had kept their daughter alive this long. True to form, officers from Scotland Yard called in two Springer Spaniel sniffer dogs to Praia La Paz to search for blood. They searched everywhere, even on the beach near the resort, but found nothing. Would the McCanns ever find Maddie?
Goncalo Amaral, who was the chief inspector working on the McCann disappearance for the Portuguese government, resigned at the close of the case. He was certain that Madeleine’s parents were the culprits and even wrote a book naming them as the people responsible for their daughter’s death. The McCanns were infuriated and insulted. They sued Amaral for libel: and won. Though the decision was overturned some years later and Amaral refused to pay.
Dozens of theories have emerged since the day Maddie McCann disappeared. Some say a pedophile abducted the poor child, others that she was killed by accident when she walked in on a burglary in action. There are even some theories that she was sold to a childless couple or even that she, being the young, inquisitive child she was, simply wandered out of the apartment and died in a tragic accident. In the meantime, her parents have not stopped looking…
Since the disappearance, many people have lent a hand and their money to the McCanns to help them look for Madeleine. They have hired several private detectives and even set up a charity for Maddie called “Madeleine’s Fund: Leaving No Stone Unturned. Even David Beckham helped out by helping raise awareness at football games across Britain. Over £2.6 million has been made since the charity was started.
Unfortunately, the McCanns aren’t any closer to finding their little girl today, than they were in 2007. Though Scotland Yard has released several aged photographs of what Madeleine would look like to the public, no one has yet come forward with information. However in December 2016, an anonymous source for the Sun on Sunday claimed that Maddie remains alive, and was snatched by an East European gang of child traffickers. The source also reports that the tip was serious enough to warrant an allocation of funds to an investigative team. The UK government is being kept informed of any breaks in the case.